Everything you need to know about eloping in Iceland
This blog answers the most asked questions that I get as an elopement photographer and videographer. By the end of this read, you will know if Iceland is your elopement destination. This blog was specially written for Americans - it includes everything you need to know if you are from the United States and want to elope in Iceland. If you are ready to start planning your elopement with Roy and me, reach out to us below!
- Reasons to elope in Iceland
- Top reasons to elope in Iceland
- Choosing the time of year
- Choosing your location
- Legalities of eloping in Iceland
- Vendor and Venue Info
- Activities after the wedding
- Accommodations and Food
- Need to know basics
- Us as your photo/video team
- Inspirational photos
If the landscape isn't reason enough for you to want to elope here, I do have 3 other reasons, but you can not beat the Icelandic scenes. It could actually become difficult to decide between all of your options. Everywhere you turn offers immaculate views. It truly is the land of fire and ice. You could easily spend your day hiking on a glacier and then spend your night watching the bright glow of the magma during volcanic activities. You can choose to elope between glaciers, black sand beaches, ocean views, waterfalls, or fields that seem to go on forever. This place just feels magical!
Obviously, your elopement will be the main moment of your trip, but after the marriage, there are so many adventures to go on! There's no reason to find a separate honeymoon location because Iceland has it all! You can unplug from the world and hide away in your Airbnb or the luxury resort at the Blue Lagoon. You can load up a campervan and road trip throughout the entire country. Or you could check into a hotel in Reykjavik and enjoy the nightlife, culture, and food. There is an itinerary for everyone and I will discuss more options below!
You can't beat the idea of jetting off into the sunset to celebrate the love you have for one another! Whether booking a hotel in the capital city or finding a cozy Airbnb tucked out into nature, this country makes you feel like it is just you and your partner! Not to mention all of the geothermal pools and hot springs that make for a great excuse to throw on the swimsuits and relax. There are several spas, bakeries, and museums that allow for quality one-on-one time.
Because of Iceland’s lack of sunlight in the winter, and its isolation from the rest of Europe and America, Icelandic people have for centuries had to rely on hunting and fishing. As a result, Icelandic seafood is some of the best in the world, and you can find it in many different ways. Whether you love fine dining and Michelin-star restaurants or food trucks in the local parks, you can find your style in Iceland. There are also several restaurants and small bars that allow you to get a better feel for the locals of Iceland!
Top Reasons To Elope In Iceland:
- Iceland’s marriage requirements for visitors are very straightforward and will be explained below
- Ceremonies can be performed for every religion or lack thereof
- Same-sex marriages are legal
- Your wedding photographs will be amazing
- You can spend the remainder of your wedding experience relaxing and exploring!
Let's Start Planning!
Choosing the time of year...
Each month in Iceland brings new wonders and summer in Iceland can be drastically different than winter, but not for the reason you may think! Learning about the pros and cons of each month can make choosing your wedding date a lot easier. Even if we plan every detail out the best we can, we will need to have a sense of flexibility when it comes to the weather.
May - July: If you want long days to explore then this is the perfect time frame for you! In July you will run into the summer solstice and travelers call this the time of the midnight sun. You will find bright green grass and plants in bloom. June and July are also known to be the best months for whale watching. These are also the warmest months of the year, although Iceland has very unpredictable weather and even during the warmest months there can be crazy winds and rain. It definitely is a place that warrants a 'rain or shine' attitude. Luckily its beauty shines through, no matter the weather.
August - September: In August, Puffins are known to make an appearance, but that isn't the only reason to consider August in Iceland. August in Iceland is in that sweet spot when the nights are getting darker, but the days are still sunny and temperate. The weather in Iceland in August is also mild, sunny, and occasionally just a little bit rainy. Generally, the weather in the south of Iceland in August changes between grey clouds and rain. September is the month that I chose to go to Iceland. This is because the northern lights are starting to become visible again, but the days are more normal with light during the day and darkness at night. This time is also their rainy season. Make sure to do as much research as you can to give yourself the best opportunity if the northern lights are a priority. September brings those crisp fall mornings in conjunction with amazing sunrises. If you choose to see Iceland in mid to late September you can expect to see the beginning of their unique fall colors across the tundra. With the temperatures getting lower and the weather unpredictable, it actually is the best time of year to enjoy the warm geothermal pools. August through September, is a true transition period between the last days of summer and the beginning of fall and winter.
October - April: Even though these months are considered the off-season, there are a lot of great reasons to visit during this time. You will have little daylight, but it could be worth it depending on what you are looking for. If seeing the northern lights is a priority for you, you will need a combination of darkness, clear conditions, and a surge in solar activity. The best way to optimize your chances of seeing the northern lights in Iceland is by visiting from mid-October through March, when you have extended hours of darkness, and by getting out into the countryside to reduce ambient light pollution. Dark conditions are also great if you are interested in photographing volcanic activity. If the beauty of the polar night is the thing you are looking for then Iceland is your paradise. It is hands down one of the best places in the world for aurora viewing. Some things to note if traveling to Iceland in the off-season: There will be snow, wind, rain, and coldness throughout your stay. The accommodations, such as airfare, hotels, or Airbnb are a bit cheaper. If you are brave enough to venture out there will be significantly fewer crowds, and you feel like you have the whole countryside to yourself.
I could not write this blog without warning you about the weather! Even though the temperature in Iceland is fairly mild all year around, they have extreme weather that even I was not prepared for. Iceland is known for unpredictable weather. Before I actually went to Iceland I was under the impression that I could handle anything the weather threw at me, but once I got there it was a completely different story! We went to Iceland in mid-September and the weather was all over the place! We had warm sunshine, a 90 mph freezing wind, and rain that poured down and soaked everything all within the span of just a few hours. The weather is no joke there and I have been told by locals that is just how it is on any given day there. Summer months can be more predictable but be prepared to deal with the weather in Iceland and know that you will have to adapt to what we are faced with. Icelanders have a saying that I heard several times while there, "if you don't like the weather, wait 5 minutes!" This is a saying I am familiar with being from Wyoming, but the weather in Iceland is extreme and Icelanders really do have to plan their lives around the weather.
Download the weather app and be prepared to follow any alerts that it sends you. In the United States, we generally take weather advisories as just that -advice, but in Iceland, they take it very seriously, especially if you are by the ocean or outside of Reykjavik. Icelanders generally take the hourly temperature predictions with a grain of salt, but they do closely watch the app for any alerts. I was told several times by locals, "If the alert tells you to stay where you are or tells you to not travel to a certain area, then listen to it!" Because the population is small in Iceland you will oftentimes find yourself isolated and far from towns. If you find yourself in a bad situation then you could be alone for a while before rescuers get to you, and you just forced a rescuer out of their safety and into your danger.
We were advised to buy the sand and volcanic ash insurance for our rental car if we were traveling on the south coast of Iceland and we were so glad we did! As we drove through the volcanic wastelands, the wind kept getting stronger and stronger. We saw vehicles pushed off the road and the sand and ash pelted our car! When we got to our destination they closed the roads and told us the gusts were over 90 mph! All of this is not to dissuade you from traveling to Iceland, it is just the reality of the weather there. Even with everything, we absolutely loved our stay and would go back to Iceland again and again!
Choosing Your Location:
Iceland is absolutely magical and offers so many amazing locations. I truly do not know how you are going to choose a location! If it were up to me, I would suggest choosing a location based on what would compliment your look, or based on what your favorite type of adventure together looks like. For example, Hanna and Leslaw wore a pink wedding dress and bright red suit so they looked stunning against the black sand beach near Vik. Angelyn and Jerome loved that Iceland is packed full of waterfalls and they loved the romance of having one all to their selves.
The best advice that I could give you when it comes to choosing a location has to do with privacy. I advise all of my couples to choose a location that offers privacy for their ceremony. A quiet, tucked-away part of nature allows you to have pure, raw, moments in your marriage. No one is there to distract you. You can cry, laugh, yell, or have whatever reaction you want and no one will judge you. It will just be you, us, and the officiant. That is why you are eloping right? Cherish every moment and make sure that this wedding is completely about your love! No one else needs to be there and these moments will be for you only. Iceland has several locations that will offer this privacy.
Then if you love one of the busier areas, we can use that location for other moments within the day! An elopement is what you make it and if you choose, we can split up the first look, vows, ceremony, and wedding formals into different moments at different places or we can do it all at one epic spot. It is all up to your preferences!
3 Areas to Consider:
1 Snaefellsnes Peninsula
On our first full day in Iceland, we drove to the Snaefllsnes Peninsula, which is in the western part of Iceland. The landscape that we saw was nothing short of breathtaking. Along this drive, we saw hundreds of waterfalls, fields with horses and sheep, and landscapes like you would never find in the United States that had been shaped by lava. The photo you see here is of Mount Kirkjufell and it is very popular amongst landscape photographers. Just past this are a few small towns alongside the ocean. There are restaurants and accommodation. Many of these locations were not found in my hours of research before traveling to Iceland. This means that they will be more private and unique to your Iceland elopement.
2 City of Reykjavik
If you are a lover of culture and experiencing the different architecture in the places you travel, then maybe you would enjoy having your ceremony in the city of Reykjavik! Reykjavik is the country's capital and largest city. It sits along the coast of Iceland and is home to only 123,000 people. Museums such as the National and Saga Museums, allow you to peak inside Iceland’s Viking history. Popular buildings such as the concrete Hallgrimskirkja church and rotating Perlan glass dome offer panoramic views of not just the city, but also the sea and nearby hills.
3 Southern Coast
Whatever you do, do not overlook the southern coast of Iceland when planning your trip! It may be one of the more desolate areas in terms of towns and accommodations, but it may offer the largest punch! The small town of Vik is a must-see on your travel itinerary. The black sand beach, lava show, and abandoned plane are all near Vik. As you continue east along the Southern Coast you will see volcanic wastelands, immaculate views of glaciers, hundreds of waterfalls, and diamond beach. There are a ton of tours that can be booked including glacier hikes, ice caves, and boat tours.
Those are just three areas, but there is so much more!
My first trip to Iceland was for six days. We packed as much as possible in those six days, but we only got to see the southwest part of Iceland. Be on the lookout for my future blog - Where to Elope in Iceland. This blog will go into depth about all of the best locations that I found in that region! There are still so many areas left to explore. The eastern and northern areas of Iceland are also spectacular. I promise you this - wherever you choose to elope in Iceland will be breathtaking!
What to Wear When Eloping In Iceland:
To put it simply, you will need layers, layers, and more layers! Iceland is quite the playground for Mother Nature and you should always be prepared for anything, even in the summer months. Wearing thermal underclothing and layers on top of that is the best practice for enduring the weather. Wool is huge in Iceland and is quite nice when it comes to blocking out the wind. There are so many different ways to layer up on your big day and your creativity is the limit, however, there is one thing you should wear when elopeming in Iceland...... its a "rain or shine" attitude! Let's face it, no matter how much you plan for the weather in Iceland, it could be foiled quite quickly, so instead of stressing out about it, embrace it. Iceland is one of the most nature-filled and wild places on earth and its beauty is uncontested rain or shine. Going into your elopement with that attitude will reduce stress and allow you to truly soak in all that Iceland has to offer!
The Legalities of it all... It's actually pretty simple!
If you would like to legally get married in Iceland you will need to follow these steps. Even if you’re traveling internationally to elope in Iceland, you can still get legally married there! E-mail the following documents first (must be done 3 weeks before the wedding date) and hand over the original documents in person, no later than five days before the wedding date. If you hire a local wedding planner, they can do this for you:
- Marriage notification
- Birth certificates of both parties. Originals will be returned after the wedding ceremony.
- Certificate of marital status, issued within eight weeks prior to the wedding date.
- A divorce decree if either party is divorced.
- If the bride/groom is a widower, a document detailing that the deceased's estate has been divided/finalized.
- Valid passports of both parties.
Iceland will only approve your wedding if you are 18 years or older and all documents must be original and either be in English or any of the Scandinavian languages (translate them if not). If you do not take care of this step at the appropriate time then Iceland will consider the marriage canceled. You will also need two witnesses. These are the basic steps for a legal marriage in Iceland and if you would like to learn even more tips about getting married in Iceland then consider reading this blog.
Need a Plan B?
With every elopement, you have two choices. The first is to get legally married during your elopement and the second option is to have a symbolic wedding - meaning that you are married in your home country and then celebrate in Iceland. There are a lot of things to consider when choosing to elope internationally. If these stipulations do not sound like they will work for your wedding then consider "Option B".
Instead of legally getting married in Iceland, what if we just did your wedding formal photos there? This could still be a wonderful opportunity to read vows and make promises to each other. Photographers and videographers offer all types of packages. It could be as simple as dressing up and taking photos in one area or you could go to a couple of areas. It could be as elaborate as planning a full day of adventures that start with formal photos, go into a picnic with a breathtaking look, and end the day with a sunset couple's session. You could either find your dream photographer and trust their vision or you could plan out your own vision and find a photographer willing to follow you to these dream destinations.
The Nitty-Gritty Details:
How to Find Wedding Vendors
Iceland is truly a small country, and with that comes some limited availability when it comes to vendors, however, there are great local vendors for all your wedding needs, but finding these vendors can be a challenge as not many have Instagram, websites, or easy-to-find contact information. This is where an Icelandic wedding planner can also be an asset for your accommodations. A few notable ones are: Iceland Wedding Planner and Iceland Elopement Planner
We highly suggest using a planner to help you coordinate with flowers, food, and indoor locations. If a more simple elopement is more your style, then working with your photographer or videographer of choice will be your best option for coordinating your ceremony and festivities. If we are available, my husband, Roy and I would love to be your photographer and videographer! There will be more information about booking with us at the bottom of this blog.
Our Favorite Venue:
Most people who travel to Iceland get married outdoors amongst the stunning landscape, however, if indoor or church weddings are more your thing, then this is our favorite one!
This is a 19th-century wooden church dating back to the 19th century in a scenic natural area in a lava field. It is truly a beautiful location against the ocean. It is charming and historical with a unique history. It is possible to have your ceremony inside and this is how you can inquire. There is a hotel right next to the church called Hotel Budir. They are the ones to contact for information on having a wedding ceremony at the church. Feel free to email them at email@example.com, and they will arrange for the pastor to contact you, set up your date, and talk about your wedding ceremony.
BEYOND THE CEREMONY
Iceland offers quite a lot for such a small country, with dozens of great restaurants and a variety of places to stay. There is something here for everyone's travel desires and needs! Depending on your elopement you may need different kinds of stay accommodations, so we listed below a list of places with different kinds of highlights.
- The Retreat Hotel at the Blue Lagoon - a 60-suite resort that includes a subterranean spa, Michelin-star restaurant, and private lagoon
Convenience (to the city of Reykjavik):
- Iceland Parliament Hotel, Curio Collection by Hilton- This hotel is located in the city center, next to the Icelandic Parliament, and is a five-minute walk from the Reykjavik Cathedral, Harpa concert hall, and city hall. There are several amenities such as a gym, spa, room service, and a first-class dining room.
- Ion City Hotel - This contemporary hotel is within walking distance from downtown. It features a popular restaurant and some amenities such as a shuttle service from the airport and breakfast.
- Hotel Viking- This Viking-themed hotel is a stay to remember and quite on-brand for Iceland. It sits alongside the ocean and is pet-friendly with a restaurant and free breakfast for its guests.
- Mirror House Iceland- Probably the most romantic stay I found in Iceland! This unique glass Airbnb is not only perfect for star gazing and northern light spotting, but it also includes mountain and ocean views!
- Amazing view - Moderne apartment- this apartment has such a clean and cozy design. It is located in the northern part of Iceland with several great attractions within just a short drive!
- Campervans - If your goals are to see all of Iceland and truly appreciate all of its beautiful scenery then you need a camper van! If you are over the age of 20 you can rent some campervans in Iceland and if you are over the age of 25 you can rent all types of campervans and motorhomes in Iceland!
- Check out the camping card if you plan to have an extended stay in Iceland.
- Learn more and explore the different campsites throughout Iceland!
Fish and chips, pizza, sandwiches, lamb/lamb soup, and hotdogs are found on almost every Icelandic restaurant menu!
Before going to Iceland I did my best to research everything I could, but out of everything I read, it did not accurately prepare me for my experience with food. To start, food is very expensive. Even just a sandwich with a slice of cheese and a few pepperonis (which was a pretty common menu item) cost $20 and up. That does not include the drink or chips/fries. We ate at normal restaurants such as cafes and food halls and a hot meal there was between $32-$50 per person. I know that this is because they have to import all of their food and they pay restaurant staff more than we do in the United States. You are not expected to tip at restaurants in Iceland. There are two dishes that you may read about, and you may think that this is something you should try while in Iceland, but I would not recommend it. These dishes are fermented shark and whale. Iceland is a tough country to grow food and prosper off of so they had to deal with the hand they were dealt in the past. Now, they are flourishing and Icelanders do not eat these dishes anymore. Fermented shark and whale has become a tourist trap. My best advice would be to avoid those and try current Icelandic dishes. One of which could include a lamb steak or lobster soup!
While we were there (and if we go again) we chose to cook just as much as we ate out. Bonus and Kronan are two grocery stores that are great to go to. Bonus is known as the cheapest grocery store. It is the one with the pink pig on the side and it has a great selection of food, but just has shorter business hours. Kronan is the grocery store that we ended up at because of where we were and the times we went to the grocery store. It has a larger selection of food and is known to have a little bit better quality of products in the store. There were a lot of familiar brands in the grocery store that we would be used to in the United States and then there were some brands and food options that I was unfamiliar with. For reference, while we were in Iceland we had cereal, frittatas, and omelets for breakfast and we had homemade pizza and pasta for dinner. These were just easy things that we could grab and make quickly for 5 people.
Do you like to drink while on vacation? My family does and we weren't sure what the alcohol would be like there. This was another topic that I found discrepancies with while researching. We found that when we were in touristy areas there was always alcohol available. Most of the restaurants have a chilled refrigerator with a drink selection. You grab the drink you want and bring it to the cash register with you when you are ready to order your meal. You could choose between rose, sparkling wine, Gull (their beer), or Somersby (hard cider). We found these beverages in almost every restaurant we went to, the Blue Lagoon, and the Sky Lagoon. They had drinks with the same labels on them in the grocery stores, but if you looked closely you would notice that in the grocery store, these are the non-alcoholic versions of the brand. If you wanted a different drink selection or more to bring back to your hotel/Airbnb then you needed to stock up on your drinks before you left the airport at their Duty-Free store or go to one of the state-run liquor stores.
The Need-to-Know Basics of Iceland:
Iceland is a country known as the land of fire and ice. It is for those who love adventure and appreciate the landscape. You may be surprised by the population! If you are an American then you can envision the land as a bit smaller than the size of Colorado. There are just over 300,000 people who live in Iceland. For reference, that is less than our least populated state of Wyoming. The country is full of tiny towns and one major city, the capital city of Reykjavik. Reykjavik is home to almost half of the population in Iceland (122,853 people according to the last census). This is why you need to love adventure and appreciate nature if you want to visit Iceland. Although it is a wonderful destination for travelers and the country has learned to adapt to tourism, it may or may not be more rugged than you were originally picturing. As I wrote above, make sure to pay attention to the weather and be ready to be flexible at all times.
Driving in Iceland deserves its own paragraph! Although there are a lot of similarities to driving in the US, such as the fact that everyone drives on the right side of the road with the driver seated on the left side, there are also many differences. The first thing I noticed while driving in Iceland is that they use the metric system. You will need to rent a car and the speedometer will be in the correct measurements so that part is easy. Just make sure to review their traffic signs before you drive. I googled this and then revisited the website several times until I was comfortable with the signs. Icelanders drive much slower than I was used to and you won't see highway patrol man around! Spread out across the country are cameras that record your speed and take a photo of your license. The locals told me to always go the speed limit and obey the traffic signs because tickets in Iceland are very expensive. Something that may surprise you while driving in Iceland is that the roads are much more narrow than they are in the United States and there are several one-way bridges - even on the main roads! The last piece of information I will leave you with about driving in Iceland is that you have to pay to park almost everywhere! Download this parking app to find out where you can park and what it costs to park. Luckily for us, we started out in areas that had signs everywhere, but as we continued to explore the country we realized that not all of the destinations that we wanted to see had signs saying we needed to pay to park even though it did require a payment. We got into the habit of checking the app each time we stopped just to make sure that we were doing the right thing. Paying the small parking fee may have been annoying, but it was much better than the possibility of multiple fines! The last major difference is the cost of fuel. I know that gas prices are always changing, so make sure to look this up if you're curious, but during our time in Iceland, gas costs $8.95/gallon.
The rich history of Iceland sparks the interest of its tourists. Iceland is a Nordic country that is positioned on the border of Europe and North America. It is home to the world's first parliament and that parliament is still in session today. The country was founded more than 1,000 years ago by Viking explorers and you can not visit Iceland without hearing tales of Vikings, elves, and trolls. Speaking of hearing tales, it is easy for American tourists to visit Iceland because everyone speaks English and Icelandic. My husband and I have spent a lot of time exploring the United States and we are used to history that is 200 years old, but in Iceland, I was reading about the beginning of Christianity being spread throughout the country. It puts such a larger perspective on the history that the land has seen. There is so much to see and do in Iceland. If you are overwhelmed and not sure where to start, I would recommend the free city walking tour! This was one of my favorite activities that we did and it offers such a great introduction into who Icelanders are and what the country is all about.
Icelanders break a lot of records based on their per capita amount and they like to tell you about it! One thing that everyone is very proud of is their water and energy and I must say, it is very impressive. Over 80% of Iceland is run off of hydroelectricity and this has helped bring them from a very poor country to a relatively wealthy country! We spent our entire trip drinking right out of the faucet water and it was delicious! When you turn on the cold water, glacier water is being pumped into your tap and when you turn on the hot water, you are getting water that is being piped underground next to lava! The hot water has a sulfur taste, look, and smell, so just make sure you let the cold water tap run for a couple of seconds before filling up your bottle to ensure a freshwater taste. On that note, make sure to bring your own water bottle! Icelanders are very conscious of their environment and try to avoid single-use plastics. There are very few public waste bins around (compared to the United States) but the ones that I did see were all sitting beside recycling bins.
Are You Sold on Eloping in Iceland?
We are a husband and wife team that offers both photography and videography! We are based in Utah and have years of elopement experience, but we have always stuck to the western states of America. After planning our first trip to Iceland and working with our first two couples there, we decided that we needed to open up our bookings to couples interested in eloping in Iceland. All of the photos that you have seen throughout this blog are photos that we took and experiences that we personally had. This means that if you fall in love with one of these locations, we would love to take you there! All of our couples receive a free elopement planning guide that makes the process easy and therefore, more fun! You get a lot when working with us! This is our passion and we won't be taking on a wedding across the world without making sure that this is going to be a great experience for everyone included.
Below is an overview of prices, but it is just an overview! Traveling to Iceland for your elopement will be unique and curated TO YOU! Send us an inquiry so we can start planning and narrowing down more specific costs and plans.